Frank Zappa - Groundbreaking
Websters defines 'Groundbreaking' as .... just kidding. Don't you hate when people begin speaches that way? It is such a cop out. It is always something like "excellence" or some BS.
So, let's jump right in to the news that makes Zappa truly groundbreaking. I mean 'groundbreaking' like Beck releasing an album only in sheet music. The kind of original thought that makes you scracth your head and think 'what the fuck'. Zappa is long dead, of course. His family, however, is releasing another live album. Frankly, I don't care. Most of Zappa's live stuff bores me to tears. His weird jazz style playing is so dissonate is mostly gives me headaches. So, who cares, right?
Oh, and this live album you can get for $1,000. What the fuck, right? WRONG. In a move that only Zappa could have pulled off... and in a move only Neil Young would have the stones to pull off - they are licensing it so that for $1,000 you truly own it. Really, you really own it. You own it in that you can sell it. You can package it and sell it... distribute it... and keep the money.
For $1,000, fans will get the music, liner notes and artwork so that they can make copies and sell them on their own or give away as gifts. Licensees can charge whatever they feel the market value is for the CDs, however, they must pay Zappa Records a mechanical royalty of $1.20 for every copy sold or delivered.
This has never been done, by anyone, ever. The closest we can come to this is the work the Dead did by allowing tapers. You hipters take that for granted now, but the Grateful Dead invented it in the modern arena. This changes the rules, all the rules, going forward. This is like what Louis CK did when he released his comedy special through his own website. He bypassed production companies and offered it straight to fans for $5. This changed everything forever. This will be the new means of releases - artsists going straight to fans with no middle man.
I like Zappa ok. I certainly have a few albums of his funnier stuff. I have no desire to buy this album, even if it was $12. What I like is what this will change going foward. The rest of the industry will sit back and see if this works, as will the artists. Sort of like how the entire US is watching Denver and Colorado to see how they manage legal marijuana. Did you know that even before the election that Denver has more pot stores than Starbucks. That is groundbreaking. Everyone else is terrified to take a step like this... so Denver has become the beta test for the entire country.
This is what the Zappa family has done. It may be the most important seismic shift in the last 50 years of music distribution. Or, it might fail epically. Time will tell, and as a fan I am incredibly excited about this.
I also love that this is being done by the family. Not the record company, or the lawyers (though I am sure they engaged many a lawyer to make this happen) this is about artists controlling their work. That is what is revolutionary. Some quick background about how this changes every rule. When you are a musician, you don't known the songs you write. The record company owns them. If I am a car company and I want to license a song, I don't ask the artist... and I don't pay the artist. It all goes to the record company. More on that here.
god bless the Zappa family. This may be the ballsiest move I have ever seen.